NASA rover discovery suggests life could have survived on Mars

A NASA rover exploring Mars has found evidence that life could have survived on the planet.

The Perseverance Rover has discovered organic matter in rock found in a dry river delta on the planet, the US space agency announced on Thursday.

3.5 billion years ago, Mars had liquid water in what is now the barren Jezero Crater, including a river that formed a sediment-rich delta where it drained into a lake. This mud and sand became Wildcat Ridge, a three-foot-wide rock.

The river spilled into a saltwater lake, generating the kind of conditions that supported the birth of life on Earth.

“In the distant past, the sand, mud and salts that make up the Wildcat Ridge sample today were deposited in conditions where life could have thrived. The fact that organic matter was found in such a sedimentary rock – known to preserve fossils of ancient life here on Earth – is important,” said Perseverance project scientist Ken Farley.

The Perseverance Rover’s goals include taking caches of Martian rocks to search for signs of ancient microbial life on Mars, including in the sediments of its long-dead water sources. Frozen water still exists on Mars.

The delta rocks in particular have shown promise.

“The rocks we studied in the delta have the highest concentration of organic matter we have yet found on the mission,” Farley told CNN.

Although the samples don’t definitively prove the existence of life on Mars in the past, they do offer stronger comparisons between the Martian past and that of Earth, where life developed and endured.

“To put it simply, if this is a scavenger hunt for potential signs of life on another planet, organic matter is a clue. And we get stronger and stronger clues as we go. as we move forward in our delta campaign,” NASA scientist Sunanda Sharma told CNN.

Perseverance began its mission 18 months ago and currently holds 12 rock samples. The samples won’t come to Earth until the 2030s.

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